worst dictators

Worst Dictators & Tyrants

Worst Dictators and Tyrants All-Time List

Compiling ADDucation’s list of the worst dictators and tyrants of all time hasn’t been easy nor fun but we think it’s important to learn from the past. History may recognize a handful of “benevolent dictators” but most dictators are also tyrants who oppressed the populations under their control. You can help us improve this list by suggesting other worst dictators BUT make sure the answer to ALL of the questions below is NO. If not maybe they’re a just a bad leader, monarch or emperor.

Frequently Asked Question (FAQ): What's the Difference Between a Dictator and a Leader or Ruler?
  1. Was the person freely elected by the people?
  2. Is the person accountable to parliament or a political party?
  3. Does the person recognize the authority of the International Court of Justice?
  4. Does the person allow freedom of expression by the population and the media?

ADDucation Tips: Click column headings with arrows to sort worst dictators. Click the + icon to show any hidden columns. Set your browser to full screen and zoom out to display as many columns as possible. Start typing in the Filter table box to find anything inside the table.

Name of DictatorCountry / GroupBornDiedAge on TakeoverFromToDictator is Responsible for…Estimated Victims
al-Assad, BasharSyria.1965342000During the ongoing civil war in Syria since 2013 Bashar al-Assad is responsible for the bombing of his own population. He stands accused by the UN of war crime for the chemical weapons attack which killed 1,400 people in Damascus suburbs in 2013.130,000+
al-Assad, HafezSyria.193020004119702000Hafez al-Assad created a cult of personality around himself and his family and maintained control of the one party state by putting state security and intelligence services in the hands of the Shia Islam Alawites.10,000
bin Laden, OsamaAl-Qaeda.19573719942011Osama bin Laden was involved in the 1988 Gilgit Massacre in Kashmir and eventually admitted responsibility for the September 11th attacks in tapes aired by Al Jazeera in 2006.4,000
Castro, FidelCuba.192620163319592008Fidel Castro jailed innumerable critics and dissidents and eventually handed power to his brother Raúl Castro in 2008, due to illness.1,000
Ceaușescu, NicolaeRomania.191819894719671989Dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu consolidated power by jailing thousands of political opponents and sending many others to psychiatric hospitals. He suffered from paranoia and anointed himself “Conducător” and oppressed the Romanian people.60,000
Chiang Kai-shekChina.188719754119281975Chiang presided over purges, political authoritarianism, martial law and is named as responsible for the February 28 (2/28) massacre in 1947 (disputed by some scholars).10,000
Duvalier, Jean Claude “Baby Doc”Haiti.195120141919711986Dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier was responsible for the persecution of political opponents, founding of the brutal “Tontons Macoutes” militia.30,000
Franco, Francisco “El caudillo”Spain.189219754619391975Dictator Francisco Franco established a totalitarian one party state after the Spanish Civil War 1936-39, which claimed half a million lives. Franco’s Spain was responsible for political purges, torture, forced labor and executions in concentration camps.1,200,000
Gadaffi, al Muammar “Colonel Gadaffi”Libya.194220112719692011As Libyan dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi was responsible for crimes against humanity including the infamous terrorist attack on Pan Am flight 103 in 1988 which resulted in the Lockerbie disaster in Scotland leaving 270 dead from 20 different countries.5,000
Hirohito, Emperor (Tenno)Japan.190119892519261989Hirohito was not only one of the worst dictators but also one of the worst Emperors ever. He was Emperor during the second Japanese-Chinese War (1937-1945) and responsible for the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 which bought the USA into World War II. Historians argue over the extent of Emperor Hirohito’s involvement in Japanese war crimes which killed millions of people.10,000,000
Hitler, Adolf “Führer”German Reich.188919454319331945Adolf Hitler was undoubtedly one of the worst dictators that has ever lived. He was responsible for the persecution and extermination of Jews, Roma (Gypsies), communists, socialists, trade unionists, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, common criminals and others in concentration camps during Word War II.55,000,000
Hussein, SaddamIraq.193720064219792003As dictator Saddem Hussein was responsible for massacres of Shiites and Kurds and the first Gulf War against Iran between 1980-1988.1,300,000
Idi AminUganda.192820034319711979Ugandan dictator Idi Amin was responsible for the persecution and murder of intellectuals, officers and judges and the brutal destruction of entire villages.300,000
Ivan IV the TerrribleRussia.15301615471584Mass executions and murder of thousands; he was choleric, a sadist, and had a violent temper.up to 220,000.
Kim il-sungNorth Korea.191219943619481994Korean War against South Korea between 1950 and 1953.3,500,000
Kim Jong-ilNorth Korea.194120115319942011Torture, public executions, reign of terror. Accused of Human rights violations by the UN General Assembly in 2011 which have continued uder Kim Jong-il.3,000,000
Kim Jong UnNorth Korea.1983292012In 2014 UN investigation recommends making Kim Jong-un accountable for crimes against humanity.unknown.
Kambanda, JeanRwanda.1955391994Jean Kambanda was president of a caretaker government in Rwanda and responsible for the 1994 Rwandan Genocide when the from Hutu to Tutsi800,000
Khomeini, RuhollahIran.190219897719791989Ayatollah Khomeini fought the First Gulf War against Iraq (1980-1988) and is responsible for the execution of thousands of political prisoners and war criminals. Khomeini founded the Islamic Republic of Iran.50,000
Kony, JosephUganda.1961261986Tyrant Joseph Kony founded the brutal rebel group LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army) including around 66,000 child soldiers.100,000
Leopold II, KingBelgium.18353018651909King Leopold II of Belgium is not only one of the worst dictators but also one of the worst monarchs ever. He was responsible for brutal atrocities (the “Congo Horrors”) against the population of the Belgian Congo.2,000,000+
Mao ZedongPeople’s Republic of China.189319765619491976Mao Tse-tung aka Chairman Mao initiated the Cultural Revolution which banished most of the intellectuals from universities to the countryside to be re-educated and perform manual labor.20,000,000
Marcos, FerdinandPhilippines.191719894819651986Ferdinand Marcos ruled as a dictator under martial law from 1972 through to 1981 during which time Amnesty International states 70,000 people were imprisoned, 34,000 were tortured and 3,240 were killed.3,240
Mengistu, Haile MariamEthiopia.19374019771991Fall of Emperor Haile Selassie 1974; “Red Terror” against regime opponents; imprisonment and torture.1,500,000
Milosevic, SlobodanSerbia, Yugoslavia.19414819892000Balkan conflicts in Yugoslavia; Serbia vs. Croatia (1991-95); vs. Bosnia (1992-95); vs. Kosovo (1998-99).200,000
Mubarak, HusniEgypt.19285319812011Autocratic reign in a virtually military state, suppressed opposition, brutally crushed the “Arab Spring” uprising in 2011 but he was eventually aquitted of conspiring to kill protesters.none proven
Mugabe, RobertZimbabwe.1924631987As dictator Robert Mugabe was responsible for persecution, imprisonment, torture and famine in Zimbabwe. The Gukurahundi massacres, between 1982 and1987, were carried out by Mugabe’s Fifth Brigade of the Zimbabwe National Army resulting in the death of at least 10,000 Ndebele mostly civilians.10,000
Mohammed, OmarAfghanistan / Taliban.196020133619962001Tyrant Mullah Mohammed Omar was co-founder and leader of the Taliban, radical Islamic terrorist group, responsible for massacres and the September 11 attacks (9/11) in 2001 terrorist attacks against the USA.100,000+
Mussolini, Benito “Il Duce”Italy.188319453919221943Benito Mussolini took Italy into an alliance with Adolf Hitler and Germany in World War II. Responsible for anti-Semitic racial laws.1,200,000
Nyýazow, SaparmyratTurkmenistan.19405119912006Saparmyrat Nyýazow was a totalitarian dictator and megalomaniac (he even renamed January after him), electoral fraud. His successor Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow has continued as a totalitarian leader so may be added to this list.0
Omar, (also Umar) al-BashirSudan.1944451989In 2008 dictator Omar al-Bashir was accused, by the International Criminal Court (ICC), of responsibility for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in Dafur since 2003.100,000+
Pinochet, AugustoChile.191520065819731990Augusto Pinochet was dictator of Chile following the violent coup against President Salvador Allende and responsible for torture and murder.3,200
Pol PotCambodia, Red Khmer.192519985019751979During the guerrilla warfare in Cambodia dictator Pol Pot was responsible for genocide of the population.1,200,000
Stalin, JosephSoviet Union.187819534319221953Joseph Stalin is one of the worst dictators ever. He was responsible for systematic executions; forced labor in Gulag labor camp; deportation of entire ethnic groups across Europe.25,000,000
Suharto, Haji MohammedIndonesia.192120084619671998Muhammad Soeharto was responsible for the mass murder of around half a million people between 1965 and 1966 following a failed coup attempt and human rights abuses including widespread torture, massacres of alleged communists and war crimes in Aceh, East Timor, Papua and the Moluccan islands.1,200,000
Taylor, CharlesLiberia.19484919972003Massacres among own population and creation of a brutal rebel group, civil war in Sierra Leone.300,000
Tito, Josip BrozYugoslavia.18925319451980Authoritarian government; founded “real socialism” dictatorship; mass arrests after the “Croatian Spring” in 1971.100,000
Videla, Jorge RafaelArgentina.19255119761981Jorge Rafael Videla was dictator of Argentina until after they lost the Falklands war in 1982. In 2010 Videla accepted responsibility for the actions of his military junta which, according to APDH (Assembly for Human Rights), were responsible for the deaths or disappearance of 12,261 people.13,000

Learn More About The Top 10 Worst Dictators Ever

  • Worst dictators and tyrants list compiled by Joe Connor, last updated August 16, 2019.
  • Spotted or mistake or do you have any suggestions to help ADDucation complete or improve this list of worst dictators and tyrants? Please add your comments below…

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